Trumpism as anti-post-modernism: Dmitry Shlapentokh discusses the constructed reality that he perceives underpinning the American economy.

AuthorShlapentokh, Dmitry

Post-modernism has become quite popular in the West, including the United States. It affects not just academia, but the American economy. Economic reality was 'constructed'. The emphasis on 'service' led to economic decline. This led to the rise of Trump, who is feared not so much because of his actions, but because he is a symbol of the rising 'deplorables'. Trump tried to move away from the prevailing practice--but without making a clear departure from the past. Actually, he followed the old principle: change everything without changing anything. Consequently, Trump is quite likely to create an unpredictable economic and possibly political crisis.


The attacks on Trump have continued, and most of his critics have reduced all their disagreement with Trump to his personality; in their view he is the cynical authoritarian who managed to take power plainly because he has no moral restraints. Some, albeit they represent the minority, assume that Trump represents the 'deplorables', the people with limited education who opposed the natural course of events, and tried to return America to the past, when Caucasians represented the majority. Still, there is another layer to Trumpism--one should remember here that Trumpism is much broader in its ideological, political and economic meaning than Trump as a person, which is usually ignored: Trumpism as the attempt, and possibly last attempt, to deal with post-modernism, which affected all segments of American society including the economy.

Those who study post-modernism in the United States, or actually in other parts of the West, usually attributed the creed to the Left and, even more so, to the academic Left. It is the academic Left/liberals who preach 'constructed reality'. They are juxtaposed to the American economy/business elite, who are not at all post-modernists. In this reading, they deal with reality, but not relativistic plays. Academia, in this narrative, is also divided. Post-modernist relativism flourishes in the university departments of women's and gender studies or of English, whereas those who deal with economics and business are dealing with reality as it is, not constructed. However, this is not the case. Post-modernism flourished among economists and business folk, including among those who are affiliated with academia. And this is what Trump tried to overcome.

The interest in post-modernism in academia, the desire to 'construct' reality and in fact discard the very notion of reality as objective category, is not caused by the intellectual allure of the creed, but rather by more down-to-earth reasons: it suits academias interests well. The notion of'constructed reality', interwoven with notions of academic independence, suits well academias socio-economic interests. It is possible to find and hire without any outside control. It makes it possible to keep paying for nonexistent works, choose subjects absolutely unrelated to societal needs and plainly ignore unpleasant reality, which could not be appropriately 'constructed', for example, that American students owe to banks more than a trillion dollars in student loans. These loans were taken out to receive a college education, and presumably provide them with good, well-paying jobs. The 'construction' of the reality to suit the interests of this or that group and often personal interests is not limited to academic Left/liberals. It is not just embedded in the departments of English and women's studies. The American economy, and, most important, how it is presented, is also 'post-modern'/'discursive'.

Economic 'discourse'

The pre- post-modern' economy and related economic science and statistics were straightforward. By the late 1950s/early 1960s, the United States was the richest country in the world, and the reason was clear: it produced most of the world's metals, cars, planes and actually everything else. This economic prowess was related to what many people considered Americanism and America. They might not be very fascinated with Americans as intellectuals, but were convinced that no one could compete with Americans in efficiency. This was acknowledged even by Stalin, who promulgated that Soviets should combine 'American businesslike behavior with Russians' love for grand things' (Amerikanskaia delovitost' i Russkii razmakh). American economic prowess and ability to organise and produce were manifested in a variety of ways. This was clear for Western and Central Europeans, who saw how Americans helped them to deal with post-Second World War problems.

The Marshall Plan, designed to lift the European economy after Second World War, was indeed focused on real production and was quite successful. With American help and encouragement, industrial production in Europe rose in a few years; European success was also American success. It made it possible to provide the economic foundation for NATO to stand against possible Soviet attack. And the United States' economic success was easily recorded in the old pre-'post-modern' way. It was in tons, miles and numbers.

But it was not just in numbers: wealth percolated down to ordinary folk. The accumulated wealth led...

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